Lake Tahoe in winter
More than seventy years ago, commercial fishing in Lake Tahoe was outlawed. The deep, clear lake in the Sierra Nevada had been denuded of its Lahontan cutthroat trout, and state officials have since only allowed recreational fishing.
Now, with interest in eating invasive species on the rise, and with millions of invasive crayfish muddying the lakewaters, commercial fishing of the crustaceans has been instated on Tahoe’s Nevada side. The New York Times has a reporter on the scene, who records the giddiness in the local seafood industry:
In Nevada, made up mostly of desert, the impending availability of a local seafood has made headlines in Reno, less than an hour’s drive northeast. Sierra Gold Seafood, a wholesaler that will sell [a fisherman’s] crayfish, trucks in all its products from hundreds of miles away — everything except the Lake Tahoe crayfish now.
“This is it, man,” said Brandon Crowell, whose family owns Sierra Gold, adding that 40 restaurants and casinos in the Reno area had already put in orders.
The Lake Tahoe area on the California-Nevada border can be appreciated from a variety of perspectives: Some people focus on the stunningly beautiful alpine lake nestled in the Sierra Nevada range, while others see it as a mecca for skiers and winter sports enthusiasts. When climate scientists look around, though, they see change. Two recent studies suggest that global warming is already altering that beloved ecosystem.
The first report (pdf), produced by researchers at the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, predicts that snowpack melts over the next century will have a drastic impact on both winter tourism and the water supply.
The average snowpack in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains that ring the lake on the California-Nevada border will decline by 40 to 60 percent by 2100 “under the most optimistic projections,” says the report from three researchers at the University of California, Davis.
Under less optimistic models, the melt-off could be accelerated. By the end of the century, precipitation in the region “could be all rain and no snow,” and peak snowmelt in the Upper Truckee River — which is the largest tributary flowing into Lake Tahoe — could occur four to six weeks earlier by 2100, the report says. [New York Times]